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Tragic Tour Bus Crash a Startling Wake-Up Call to the Danger of Driver Fatigue

Recent headlines have brought the subject of driver fatigue/drowsy driving once again to the forefront, with the March 12 horrific crash in the Bronx of a tour bus headed home from a late-night gambling trip in Connecticut.  Although the exact details have yet to fully emerge, investigators are looking into how much rest driver Ophadell Williams had before taking to the wheel on that Friday night … and examining the role that fatigue may have played in this accident.  As the investigation continues, the region (and nation) continues to watch as perhaps the most tragic recent example of drowsy driving brings the issue of driver fatigue into the spotlight – leading people to think about not only how this accident may have been avoided, but how to avoid driver fatigue, and its consequences, in their own lives.

If it is confirmed that the driver fell asleep at the wheel, this accident is, unfortunately, only one of the countless accidents caused annually by drowsy driving.  Recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimate that about one in six (16.5 percent) deadly crashes involve a driver who is drowsy.  Equally, if not more, alarming are recent statistics released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety spotlighting the startling prevalence of drowsy driving — with their findings showing that two out of every five drivers (41%) admit to falling asleep behind the wheel at some point and one in ten drivers say that they’ve done so within the past year.  And while drowsy driving seems to be growing both in terms of how many drivers are admitting to falling asleep behind the wheel and those admitting to driving despite being so tired that they had difficulty keeping their eyes open in the previous month, it is legally not a crime – and, as Marc Gann noted in a recent New York Times piece on this particular accident, charging a driver who is not under the influence of alcohol or drugs with vehicular manslaughter would require proving that he was reckless, “a fairly high standard” under the law, “which is going to involve speed and some other factor.”

In any case, and even if no serious accident results from driver fatigue, driving while drowsy — like driving while intoxicated or driving under the influence — is something to be avoided at all times.  As part of its national campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of drowsy driving, AAA offers these tips to remain alert and avoid drowsiness while driving:

  • Getting plenty of sleep (at least six hours) the night before a long trip;
  • Scheduling a break every two hours or every 100 miles;
  • Traveling at times when you are normally awake, and staying overnight rather than driving straight through; and
  • Stop driving if you become sleepy; someone who is tired could fall asleep at any time.

For more information and tips about avoiding drowsy driving, visit www.AAAFoundation.org.

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